Kuwait and Turkey have signed agreements to develop relations in a variety of fields. What do you hope will come out of these agreements?
Turkey and Kuwait enjoy excellent political relations. We signed 12 agreements in various fields in 2017. This shows that both sides have a strong political will and determination to take bilateral relations even further and extend cooperation to other fields as well. We will closely follow up the implementation of these agreements in order to realize our targets.
In addition, military cooperation was discussed. How do you see this cooperation moving forward?
In the last 15 years, Turkey has made significant progress to become self-sufficient in the field of national defense, and started to produce many modern weaponry systems of its own. We do not see Kuwait simply as a market. On the contrary, Turkey is ready to share its vast experience, know-how, as well as technology, and to meet Kuwait's specific needs in this field. We believe that there is significant room for cooperation between the two states.
Turkish companies are deeply involved in Kuwait, particularly in the construction sector; how can economic cooperation be strengthened further?
Turkish construction sector companies are active in Kuwait and the Gulf countries, and are undertaking many important projects. The Turkish construction sector recently won a total of USD6.5 billion worth of projects in Kuwait. When you consider that it was only USD500 million in 2013, you can see the tremendous positive difference in this sector. Amongst these projects is the new International Airport of Kuwait being built by world renowned Turkish construction company Limak. Economic cooperation can be further strengthened by increasing bilateral trade, which amounted to only USD1.3 billion in 2016, by attracting Kuwaiti investments in Turkey and also by developing tourism. Kuwaiti businesses have invested USD1.7 billion in Turkey and there is an increasing trend. We are easing bureaucratic impediments in front of investments from the Gulf countries. Turkey has become an important destination for Kuwaiti tourists, with 180,000 Kuwaitis visiting Turkey in 2016. The number of Turkish tourists visiting Kuwait is also steadily increasing.
Kuwait has been working to help Syrian refugees in Turkey; how can both countries cooperate further on this issue?
The number of Syrians in Turkey has exceeded 3.3 million. For wide-ranging services provided for Syrians such as education, language courses, vocational training, access to the labor market, as well as support for social and health requirements, we have spent USD30-billion. However, the international community in general has so far failed the test of burden sharing. Only a limited number of countries, including Kuwait, have been the exception in providing financial assistance. We are more than happy to see our friends like Kuwait extend their helping hand to share our burden. We continue to reiterate our call that equitable and meaningful burden and responsibility sharing is necessary. We appreciate the efforts of Kuwait, especially through the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED). In January 2016, KFAED signed grant agreements with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education worth a total of USD20 million. KFAED also signed three grant agreements in March 2017 with the municipalities of Gaziantep, Kilis, and Şanlıurfa, each worth of USD5 million. In the forthcoming period, we are prepared to deepen our relations on migration and refugee issues, and exchange views in the preparations of the Global Compact processes.
What field would benefit from further cooperation between your countries?
We believe that excellent political relations pave the way for better cooperation in other fields as well. The Joint Committee for Cooperation is an important tool in that respect through which we can explore new avenues of cooperation. We hope to hold the next session in Turkey in the months to come. For example, we signed Tourism and Culture Cooperation Agreement last March, which will help develop our relations in these fields. We are also closely following Kuwait's undertakings in becoming a regional financial and trade center. Coupled with the Five-Year Development Plan, we believe that Turkish companies and experts will be ready to contribute to these goals. There are certain areas where our cooperation can be further developed such as the defense industry, energy and especially renewable energy, and organic farming. Food and energy security in Kuwait along with the strengthening of its defense capability are areas where Turkey can definitely contribute. Besides, our region is going through a critical period and the current circumstances in the region call for better cooperation and coordination among friendly countries.